If you are going to use direct mail as the engine that runs your seminar program, you have to be able to determine what area to saturate with invitations. The first thing you have to do is to figure out which zip codes to mail to. It’s very simple: go to www.zipfind.net and click on “zip find deluxe.” On the right side you will see “radius search.”

Simply put in the zip code of the restaurant you’re using and select six miles. This will give you a list of all the zip codes within a six-mile radius of the restaurant from closest to farthest. Remember that prospects will drive a maximum of 15 minutes to go to your event. So if you live in a rural area it might take 15 minutes to drive 10 miles, or more in an urban area.

At this point you have a list of zip codes to mail to. You will notice that some of the zip codes will have a population of zero, so obviously you don’t need those. I would suggest making a list of those zip codes, from closest to farthest, and send them to the direct mail company that will be printing and mailing out your invites, as well as some information about the demographic you hope to reach. They can do the research for you.

How many invites should you send? If you want to fill three nights with 30 people each night, assume that you will get a 1 percent response rate on your mailing, and work from there. We also know that about 20 percent of the people who sign up for the seminar will not show.

It’s simple math: if you hope to see 36 people signed up each night, and you expect that only 28 to 30 will actually appear, multiply your desired attendance (36) by the number of nights (three) and divide it by your expected response rate of 1 percent, producing 10,800. That means you should mail out about 11,000 invitations.

Can you now see why I switched to the more cost effective postcards? Once you have done a few mailings you will know exactly what your response rate will be, but it’s safe to start with the assumption of 1 percent. The mailing company you use might be able to give you a good idea with respect to response rate in your area due to the fact that they are likely mailing for one of your competitors.